Nov 12, 2015 | By Kira

The Mona Lisa, Starry Night, Girl with a Pearl Earring…for the majority of us, these names alone are enough to conjure vivid mental images of the paintings they represent. They are mentioned in pop culture, in classrooms, perhaps even in discussions with friends, and for most of us, the conversation makes perfect sense. However imagine never having seen The Mona Lisa because you were born blind. Suddenly, all those references to her beauty or her enigmatic smile would be lost on you.

Marc Dillon, founder of Unseen Art, wants to change that by making forms of classic art, including paintings and sculptures, more accessible to the blind and visually impaired. His not-for-profit project, which launched on Indiegogo today, seeks to connect 3D artists with the visually impaired through a global open source software platform. 3D artists would be able to upload creations, such as Mona Lisa’s face, or Van Gogh’s sunflowers, and those wanting to experience or share them with the visually impaired could freely download them and 3D print the models. The first artwork he wants to create in 3D and make freely downloadable is the Mona Lisa.

Currently, some museums offer interactive, multi-sensory exhibitions, but for the most part, they are not blind-friendly (with a few notable exceptions, including the Museo del Prado in Madrid). Nor are they accessible to anybody, anywhere. The idea with Unseen Art is really to create a global community of artists, and to expand the museum into anywhere there is a 3D printer—including libraries, universities, or even people’s homes.

“There are people who have heard about many different pieces of art their whole lives and they’ve never had any access to that. So I think that it’s amazing that an artist that’s in London can create a model — in this case it’s the Mona Lisa is the one we’re starting with — and then there’s a guy in Texas who’s printing it out; a blind person or one of the organizations,” said Dillon. Having previously worked in the mobile industry for nearly 25 years, Dillon said that he felt the urge to give back.

“The things that came together for me were I wanted to find a place where I could basically find a community that had a need and give back to that, with the experience that I have. And then with the fact that this was an open platform that basically will be free once it gets up and running — that were the things I thought were really amazing about this.”

The Unseen Art Indiegogo campaign is hoping to raise $30,000 to develop the open source software. Rewards start at just $30 for your own 3D printed touchable Mona Lisa face, re-created with a depth and texture that allows for a tactile understanding of the image. In fact, the visually impaired often use 3D tactile objects, ‘seeing with their hands,’ as the brain is able to translate tactile information almost as though it were able to see the object itself.

Beyond the visually impaired, however, Dillon believes Unseen Art could have unique benefits for sighted people, offering them a different way to experience great artworks, and to connect with their visually impaired friends or family. “People that have seen the Mona Lisa are like wow, you would never think you could touch this but in three dimensions — it’s quite a different experience,” he says.

The crowdfunding campaign is open for just over a month, hopefully giving it enough time to spread and reach the great community of 3D artists and 3D activists who want to make art more accessible. “The classical artworks of the world are something we believe everybody should have accessibility to and it should be free. So we have to build something in order to do that.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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